« PreviousContinue »
Where is the christian almost, that seriougi ly bethinks bimself, What might I do to win souls ? It may be, you will go on in the company of the godly, where you may be edified ; but when do you go to your poor neighbor, whom you see to live in a sinful state, and tell him of his danger, and labor to gain him to Christ? yen, so much is this great duty neglected, and out of fashion, that I am afraid many question whether it be a duty or no. As if you might let sin lie upon the soul of your brother, and yet be innocent, Lev, xix. 17. If it were but his ox or ass that lay ready to perish, you would make no question but it were your duty to help him out of the ditch': and do you think in earnest, that you owe more to these, than you do to his soul? Is it to ministers only, or to all believers, that scripture belongs ? Prov. xi. 30. of the righteous is a tree of life, and he that winneth souls is wise. Surely the lives of too many Christians do speak the same language that Cain spake with his mouth, Am I my brother's keeper ? Gen. iv. 9. 'Tis true, God will have you keep every one within the bounds of your proper stations, but, so as to to take occasions, yea, to seek occasions, as you are able, to be doing good to others. Do you not know how to get within your poor neighbors ? carry an alms with you, do him a kindness, oblige him by your courteous and winning carriage. Then I shall look to see the kingdom of Christ flourish gloriously, when every one that professeth godlines shall arise and take hold of the skirt of his neigh
The fruit bor. Oh, sec your neglect in this. Do not think it enough to keep your own vineyard : let your friend and neighbors have no quiet for you, till you see them setting in good earnest to seek after heaven. Oh, if you might bring in but every one bis man to Christ, what a blessed thing were this! I lose my. self in this argument, but I am content to do so, this duty being so miserably neglected.
Too many live as if religion lay all in praying, and hearing holy conference, and the like, forgetting that pure religion and un. defiled is this, Te visit the fatherless and the widows in their affliction, James i. 27. The other should be so done, as that this should not be left undone. You make conscience of being just and true, and faithful ; but do
you not forget to win upon others by your kindness and affableness ? as it were not written in your bibles, be pitiful, be courteous, hav. ing compassion one of another, 1 Pet. iii. 8. Say not, it is not my nature : what doth grace serye for, but to correct the evils of your temper ? Is not ours a religion ef self-denial ? do not the rules of our religion enjoin us to be followers of whatsoever is lovely, and of good report, and may render religion amiable to the world, Pbil. iv. 8.
Rule. II. Use a wise fore-cast, that every duty may fall in its time and order, and every work may have its room. It is not enough to do God's work, but it, must be done in bisiorder. That which in itself is good and necessary, may be so ill-timed, as to become a sin. It is a duty to tell your brother of his
sin ; but to rip up in your passion, or to be retorting upon him, when he is Christianly admonishing you, is a sin. Your worldly business must not shut out religion, nor religious duties take you so up as to neglect your callings, but every duty must have its place. But for the doing all in God's order, take these five directions.
Direct. 1. Begin at home in provoking to good. Why should God plead with you, Thou that teachest another, teachest thou not thyself ? Rom. ii. 21. Be an example of thine own rule, else the hypoerite's charge will come in against thee, Matth. xxiii. 4. They bind heavy burdens, but will not touch them with one of their fingers. Observe God's order, Deut. vi. 6, 7 These words which I command thee, shall be in thine heart ; that must be our first care. And then having got our lesson well ourselves, we must then teach it to others; And thou shalt teach them diligently to thy children, and tell of them what thou, &c. At least, if thou hast not already attained it, be sure to learn with the first ; and when thou pressest a duty, intend thyself first; and speak most to thine own heart.
2. In reproving evil ; otherwise thou wilt be branded for an hypocrite, Matth. vii. 5. First cast the beam out of thine own eye. We may not think, as many do mistakingly, that we must not reprove another, when we are guilly, of the same sin. But we must, in such a case, be sure to cast the first stone at ourselves. Be soonest angry with thyself;' and more sc vere to thine opp sins, than any
otliers. 'Tis strange to see the great censo. riousness of professors to others, and how teniler they are of their own corruptions, apil impatient of reproof. Reader, fear and avoid this sin.
Direct. 2. Let God be first served. Let God have the first of thy thoughts, the first of the day, the first of thy strength.
How heavily is God displeased with the profane priests, because they will serve themselves first with sacrifices, before him! 1 Sam. i. 15., 16. And it is the holy counsel that one gives, Hold the door of thy heart fast against the world in the morning, till thy heart hatli been first in heaven, and seasoned and morti. fied from thence, against the temptations that thou art like to meet with, as soon as thou comest down below. Indeed, all must be done as God's service, but so as that his im. mediate service must be done first. It is the counsel of several heathens, That all undertakings should be begun with prayer. Saith Aratus, Let us begin with God. And the very Mahometans began their books always as men use to do their wills, In the name of God.
Direct. 3. First cleanse the inside, Matth. xxiii. 26. Cleanse first that which is within the cup. Though they are much out that live, as if all their work were within doors, yet remember that it lies chiefly here. "Tis a most preposterous course in religion, to begin first with the outside, Jer. iv. 14. 0 Jerusalem, wash thine heart! When once this is done, reformation will soon follow in the life, but not
otherwise. Many are careful that all that appears to men should be beautiful, but their hearts are neglected. These carry upon them thie marks of the hypocrite, Matth. xxiii. 27, 29. And what will it profit thee, O vairy man, to have all kept secret from men, since God know's and rejects thee ? and hath appointed a day wherein he will rip open thy pack, and anatomize thy heart before the worl], 1 Cor. iv. 5. Eccl. xii. 14. Rom. ii. 16.
Direct. 4. Eye those duties most, that are of most importance, Matth. xxiii. 23. The hiypocrite is very punctual in lesser matters, liui neglects the weightiest things of the law, judgment, and mercy, and faith. He is for a religion that will cost liim little : And therefore words being good cheap, he will be as forward in talk as any mighty zealot in the circumstantials of religion, and marvellous censorious of others that come not up to his ininil, as inen of wide principles, and large consciences ; but in the mean time he is very negligent in secret duties, a great stranger to *elf denial, and walking humbly with God. lle strains wonderfully at a ceremony ; but it may be, he will swallow the gains of unrighteousness, or the baits of intemperance fast enough. It may be, he will decry superstition, and never want a stone to fling at a profane cburchman; but, in the mean time, walks loosely in his family, makes little conscience of his dealings, or will take up his cups as freely as another, so he be not drunk. Or, if he will not take a penny of his neighbor's estate, he is most unmerciful to his good name,